Any student of technical, expressive drumming would be wise to study Jimmy Chamberlin, ex-drummer for alt-rock goliaths Smashing Pumpkins and Zwan. His debut solo album, “Life Begins Again” (Sanctuary), under the name Jimmy Chamberlin Complex, is packed with breathtaking fills and swooping drum lines, and Chamberlin re-creates them with passionate authority on stage. “Life Begins Again” also marks his debut as a full-fledged songwriter, with bandmate Billy Mohler filling out the co-writing role and guests including former Pumpkins/Zwan frontman Billy Corgan, who did not make it out for this, Chamberlin’s live public debut (band performed an unadvertised set at the Echo last week).
Unfortunately, as a songwriter, Chamberlin’s a great drummer. His instrumentals are dense and often foggy: Though some, like “Streetcrawler,” maintain their intensity, others fall apart under the weight of more parts than a Pep Boys.
He fares better with lyrics: “Loki Cat,” the song that boasts a Corgan appearance on the record, here was re-created as an atmospheric wave of guitars and keyboards, with Mohler doing a legitimate job at imitating Corgan’s trademark whine.
Chamberlin has put together an ace band, with keyboardist Adam Benjamin’s discreet, jazzy Fender Rhodes filling the mix throughout the night. But unlike the Pumpkins, this band doesn’t take chances: The show ran through all of the songs on the album in under an hour — only slightly more than the record’s 43-minute runtime.
There’s room for jamming in the Complex’s prog-rock instrumentals, and if Chamberlin and his band find that room, they could emerge at their second Knitting Factory show in two weeks as a solid bet — if not quite a contender.